mental health stigma psychologist

In our journey towards better mental health, understanding mental disorders, breaking the stigma, and exploring effective treatments are vital steps. While seeking professional help is often the right step, looking out for signs of a mental disorder can help to make the decision.

In this blog post, we’ll talk about the spectrum nature of mental disorders (rather than “having a mental disorder”), the challenges of diagnosis, the importance of seeking professional help, and the role of medication and psychotherapy in treating mental health problems.

Components of Mental Disorders

Mental disorders refer to a range of conditions that impact our thoughts, emotions (feelings), and behaviours. They exist on a spectrum, with varying degrees of severity. From anxiety disorders to depression, bipolar disorder to schizophrenia, each mental disorder has unique characteristics and treatment considerations.

Recognising that mental disorders exist on a spectrum from none to high helps with destigmatising mental health problems and engaging in therapy. Once we understand we cannot simply “have” anxiety, rather, we all have some levels of anxiety (and some of us have very high levels of it), it changes our perspective from “something is wrong with me” to something more pragmatic and approachable.

Behavioural signs of a mental disorder

Often the best way to collect reliable data about someone (even ourselves) who might be struggling with a mental disorder is to note the change in their everyday behaviours. This is because analysing our thoughts and feelings often needs insight which could be impaired by mental health issues.

Some behavioural signs of a mental disorder include a change in withdrawing from other people, for instance, a previously social person suddenly spends a lot of time at home. Another example would be avoiding certain everyday situations, claiming it’s too stressful or scary.

Behaviours in social settings can also serve as important cues that are worth talking about with a psychologist. For instance, if someone is struggling to talk or eat in front of others, or the opposite, interrupts others without noticing it can cause stress for the person and others around them.

Sudden changes in work or school performance, including focus, memory, and attention, are also warning signs.

Another big cue is changes in sleeping or eating patterns. Either sleeping too much or too little or gaining or losing weight without obvious reasons.

Lastly, risky or self-destructive behaviours, even if they seem “fun” initially, are signs that someone might be struggling with their mental health.

Challenges with Diagnosing Mental Disorders

Diagnosing mental disorders can be complex due to a variety of factors. Unlike many physical health conditions, mental disorders often lack clear-cut diagnostic tests. Mental health professionals rely on thorough assessments and formulation that consider a person’s symptoms, history, diagnostic scales, and functioning.

Coexisting conditions and overlapping symptoms, such as low mood or high anxiety, can complicate the diagnostic process. Despite these challenges, accurate formulation and diagnosis are very important for effective treatment planning.

The Importance of Seeking Professional Help

How do you know when you need to see a psychologist? While seeking information online is a great start, if you’re facing distress or noticing persistent changes affecting your daily life, seeking professional help is essential.

While self-help is sometimes possible, as mental disorders often change how we think, trying to work through our own problems without someone’s help is often a frustrating experience. Regardless, there are certain things everyone can try if they cannot see a psychologist.

Regular exercise, as in, 3 times a week, has a lot of benefits for mood and anxiety and helps with regulating our sleep cycles as well.

Regular sleep routine, as in, same bedtime and wake-time every day, helps with daytime tiredness, which then can help with mood problems.

Medication and Psychotherapy in Treating Mental Health Problems

When it comes to treating mental health problems, a combination of approaches can be beneficial. Medication can play a valuable role in managing symptoms of certain mental disorders, especially in the early stages of treatment. Antidepressants, antianxiety medications, mood stabilizers, and antipsychotics are examples of medications commonly prescribed. However, it’s important to note that medication alone may not address the underlying causes of mental health issues.

Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, has shown substantial evidence as an effective treatment for mental health problems. Through various therapeutic modalities, such as cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), and dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT), individuals can explore and understand their thoughts, emotions, and behaviours. Psychotherapy teaches people to develop coping skills, manage their thoughts more effectively, improve communication with others, and build resilience.

In some cases, a combination of medication and psychotherapy can yield the best outcomes. This integrated approach addresses both biological and psychological aspects, offering a comprehensive treatment strategy. Collaborating with a mental health professional will help determine the most appropriate treatment plan for your specific needs.

Understanding mental disorders, breaking the stigma, and exploring effective treatments are essential for nurturing our mental well-being. While medication may be beneficial for certain mental health problems, psychotherapy, with its extensive evidence base, remains a cornerstone of treatment. By seeking professional help, you gain access to expert guidance and support to navigate your mental health journey. Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all approach, and a personalized treatment plan that combines different strategies can help you on your path to healing and recovery.

Please note that this blog post by Personal Psychology is not intended to provide professional advice. If you or someone you know is experiencing mental health difficulties, it is important to seek help from a qualified healthcare professional.